Written Answers. - Jury Trials.

Brian Cowen

Question:

48 Mr. Cowen asked the Minister for Justice the plans, if any, she has to abolish juries in major fraud trials; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9142/97]

The right to a trial by jury is provided for in Article 38.5 of the Constitution. It permits a derogation from that right in three instances only, that is to say in the case of minor offences which is not relevant to this question; in the case of military offences, which again is not relevant to this question; and in cases where it is determined in accordance with law the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice, and the preservation of public peace and order.

Provision has been made by law for this last category of exception, so that offences may be tried before a Special Criminal Court in the circumstances envisaged in Article 38.5.

The constitutional right to a trial by jury, subject to the exceptions set out in Article 38.5, was recognised in the report of the Advisory Committee on Fraud, whose general conclusion was that serious fraud trials "must, therefore, be held before a jury".

The Law Reform Commission, in its report on the law relating to dishonesty, also considered the question of dispensing with the jury in serious fraud trials. It specifically made no recommendation for the replacement of juries in serious fraud trials, concluding that "the constitutional reality of Article 38.5 spared us from making a recommendation on the matter".

I am currently studying the recommendations of the Advisory Committee and the Law Reform Commission as part of a wide-ranging reform of the law on fraud and I expect to bring proposals for legislation to Government shortly.